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NIST awards $4 million to fund U.S. competitiveness in metal AM

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The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) awarded almost $4 million in government funds to further develop United States’ companies competitiveness in metal additive manufacturing.

NIST is a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce that promotes American innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve quality of life.

All of the funded projects aim to create better measurement processes for metal additive manufacturing. The projects come at a time when standardization is increasingly in view for industry players and regulators alike. The International Standards Organization has, for example, published ISO/ASTM standard no. 52941 in cooperation with ASTM. The standard creates normative acceptance tests for metallic materials used in aerospace AM.

As new standards begin to proliferate, standardized measurement techniques that may be reliably applied across the industry become increasingly valuable. The NIST conducts unique research and funds additional projects, like those that have received this latest round of funding, to address barriers to adoption of AM, including surface finish and quality issues, dimensional accuracy, fabrication speed, material properties and computational requirements.

Standardized measuring techniques will help each of their fields achieve more accurate, durable results, thus increasing American competitiveness in the field.

The projects that have been funded are:

Georgia Tech Research Corporation ($1 million)
This project will analyze detailed data gathered during the powder bed fusion process to control manufacturing and predict the final properties of the manufactured parts. The goal is to establish a comprehensive basis with which to qualify, verify and validate parts produced with powder bed fusion. The initial focus will be on a titanium alloy that could see extensive applications in health care and aerospace sectors.

The University of Texas at El Paso facility
The University of Texas at El Paso facility

University of Texas at El Paso ($1 million)

This project will define a test artifact that will standardize the collection of data on the process inputs and performance of parts made via laser powder bed fusion, an important method of metal-based AM. Academic, government and industrial partners will replicate the artifact and collect data on the key inputs to the process and the resulting properties of the artifact for a data repository. The work will lead to a greater understanding of the AM process and will allow for greater confidence in final parts.

Purdue University ($999,929)
Qualification of parts made by AM now requires an extensive set of tests. This project aims to reduce that burden by developing a standardized approach to predict key performance properties through measurements of material microstructures and the use of mathematical models. The work promises to create a streamlined method for industry to understand part performance with less testing than is currently required.

Northeastern University ($999,464)
This project aims to improve sensing approaches and create a suite of sensor technologies that will help optimize cold spray additive manufacturing. Cold spray AM processes have the potential to create parts that are more durable and stronger than those made with other AM processes. New sensors will help characterize the properties of the powder feedstock and the key parameters of the process, such as temperatures and part dimensions, and allow for better control of this promising technique.

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